To Theo van Gogh. The Hague, on or about Sunday, 18 December 1881.
My dear Theo,
It’s possible that you’ve been expecting a word from me to hear what I’m doing these days. And for my part I’ve been looking forward to a word from you.
I’m still going to Mauve’s every day, during the day to paint, in the evenings to draw. Have now painted 5 studies and 2 watercolours, and naturally a few scratches.
I can’t tell you how good and kind Mauve and Jet have been to me these days. And Mauve has shown and told me things which I can’t do straightaway but will gradually put into practice. But I must go on working hard, and when I’m in Etten again a couple of changes will be necessary, among other things I’ll have to see about renting a large room somewhere in which I can stand back a sufficient distance, otherwise figure drawing isn’t really possible, except for studying a few fragments.
Anyway, I’m considering the matter with M. and I’ll write to you about it again one of these days.
The painted studies are still lifes, the watercolours done from a model, a Scheveningen woman. Perhaps M. will write a letter to you himself soon.
But Theo, I’ve been gone almost a month now, and you’ll understand that I’ve had more expenses than usual. M. has in fact given me various things, paint &c., but I’ve had to buy more of this and that, I’ve also paid the model for several days. And needed a pair of shoes, and besides, I didn’t always pay attention to every penny, so that I’ve rather exceeded the 100-franc limit, for the whole trip has now cost me 90 guilders altogether. And now I think that Pa is rather short of money and I don’t know what to do.
For my part, I’d like to stay here a while longer, would even like to rent a room here for a couple of months, in Scheveningen, for example, and possibly for more than a couple of months. But in the circumstances it would perhaps be better to return to Etten. I find Scheveningen so almightily beautiful and the types and figures. But the models there cost 1.50 or 2 guilders a day, some of them even more. But here one is in touch with painters &c. When I wrote to Pa this week for money, he thought the 90 guilders I’d spent so terribly much.
You, though, will understand, I think, that this wasn’t unreasonable, because everything is expensive. But I damned well hate having to give Pa an account of every penny, the more so because everything is blabbed to everyone else, not without embellishments and exaggerations.
What’s more, Pa has now spent money on an overcoat for me that hung to the ground when I got it, and was a vulgar, flamboyant style to boot. Perhaps Pa did it out of kindness, but it really wasn’t the time to do it, since we have so many expenses already, and it’s also no way to buy clothes, without consulting the person and without fitting or measuring. Pa sent the coat here, but I immediately sent it back. So I only want to say, Theo, I’m beginning to get rather hard up. And I’m writing to you to tell you this. I haven’t any money to stay, I haven’t any money to go back. I’ll wait a day or so in any case and do whatever you want.
Do you think it’s better that I stay here a while? I’d very much like to stay a bit longer, and not go back before I’ve progressed a great deal more.
If you want me to go back immediately, that’s also fine with me. Provided I find a good room somewhere, somewhat larger than the little studio at home. Then I can potter about by myself for a while, and go back to The Hague again later. In any event, Theo, I’ve been so enlightened by Mauve as regards the mysteries of the palette and painting in watercolour. And that will repay the 90 guilders this trip has cost. M. says that the sun is rising for me but that it’s still shrouded in mist. Oh well, I have nothing against that. Sometime I’ll tell you more about how kind and good M. was.
So now I’ll wait here a couple of days, awaiting your answer. But if your answer doesn’t come within 3 or 4 days, I’ll ask Pa for the money to go back immediately.
I still have all kinds of things to tell you which you’ll perhaps be interested in, about the way of working from a model at Etten, but as I already said, I’ll write to you about this later – soon. I’m sending you herewith scratches of the two watercolours. I have every hope of making something saleable within a relatively short time, yes, believe that if necessary it ought to be possible to sell these two. Especially the one in which M. has added some touches. But I’d prefer to keep them myself for a while, the better to remember various things regarding their execution.
How marvellous watercolour is for expressing space and airiness, allowing the figure to be part of the atmosphere and life to enter it.
Now would you like me to make a few more watercolours for you here? I’d like nothing better, but accommodation here and the models and the paint and the paper &c. &c. all cost me money, and I haven’t got any more. So write to me in any case by return of post, and if you want me to stay, send me some money if possible.
I really think that I’ll be able to make more progress now, now that I’ve heard some practical things about colour and the handling of the brush. And you can imagine that I set great store by M. not having to regret his kindness.
We’ll try and pull through and put some energy into it.
Now adieu, I’m counting in any case on your writing a word by return of post, address A. Mauve. Uilenbomen 198. Believe me, with a handshake in thought,
I have extremely bad ink here which has something red in it that has come through in the sketches.